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Michael Thieke Unununium - Where Shall I Fly to Not Be Sad Again, My Dear?

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Artist: Michael Thieke Unununium

Album: Where Shall I Fly to Not Be Sad Again, My Dear?

Label: Charhizma

Review date: Jun. 27, 2006

He’s a part of a community in Berlin that is known more for their use of extended technique and minimalist tendencies, and has been a part of three releases on Creative Sources, the Portuguese stalwarts of restrained improvisation. But Michael Thieke isn’t solely a proponent of such difficult work. Where Shall I Fly to Not Be Sad Again, My Dear?, the debut recording by Thieke’s Unununium, isn’t as Romantic as its title might imply, but those listeners looking for footholds are more likely to find them here than in Thieke’s other work.

“If I Think, Again, of This Place” opens the album with Thieke tying melodic fragments in small knots over a rather minimalist background created by his collaborators. “Fünf Treppen,” however, begins with an upbeat rhythmic statement from bassist Derek Shirley and percussionist Eric Schaefer, and while the track’s primary voices – Thieke’s saxophone and Luca Venitucci’s accordion – spend much of the track simmering in cycles of terse repetition, the track is indicative of Thieke’s flirtation with more traditional jazz forms throughout the rest of the album. “Der Idiot” waddles with an off-kilter rhythm, spotlighting Venitucci’s prepared piano and on top of some irregular support from Shirley and and Schaefer, but Thieke’s playing, suspended over the track’s patchwork backbone, is a ribbon of relaxed accompaniment, fragments of an unknown ballad stretched past recognition, peppered with quick, twisting phrases. There’s a noir-ish tone to a significant portion of the album’s sound, dark and vaguely mysterious, but not so stylized to seem overdone.

Thieke is decidedly the focal point of Where Shall I Fly to Not Be Sad Again, My Dear?; not only is he the composer of the bulk of the album, but his playing is often in the foreground of the performances. Luca Venitucci, however, is often the group’s most interesting cog, as his accordion and prepared piano introduce novel voices to the fray, and his playing is frequently the music’s most colorful. It’s also a significant part of the shading Thieke uses to tint Unununium’s music, which, even if it’s some of Thieke’s most accessible, is not a simple stroll in the park.

By Adam Strohm

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